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From Neglect to Activism: American Politics and the 1985 Plaza Accord*

C. Randall Henning and I. M. Destler

Journal of Public Policy, 1988, vol. 8, issue 3-4, 317-333

Abstract: US exchange rate policy shifted in 1985 from unilateralist nonintervention to actively promoting dollar depreciation and multilateral cooperation. Pressures from producer interests, particularly multinational companies making manufactured goods, and from sympathetic members of Congress were the most important of multiple forces pushing the US Treasury toward dollar depreciation. Once the Treasury had chosen an activist course, a multilateral strategy had several benefits over a unilateral approach to depreciation. It could better counter the immediate threat to Administration trade policy from Congress, orchestrate depreciation, strengthen Treasury's influence within Washington and shift the burden of adjustment away from US fiscal policy, then frozen, onto other governments. When the trade account is in balance, individual policymakers have flexibility in determining exchange rate policy. But when large trade deficits arise, the domestic political pressures of trade-exposed sectors will dominate personalities and ideas.

Date: 1988
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Handle: RePEc:cup:jnlpup:v:8:y:1988:i:3-4:p:317-333_5